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The Risks of Mixing Friendship and Project Management


As a project manager, it′s important for you to get along with your team, but how chummy is too chummy? Is that even possible?

Unfortunately, yes. While friendship in the team is a great thing, and can lead to loyalty and team cohesion, it can raise some pretty big negative issues if handled the wrong way, especially in a highly competitive work environment.

Friendship and Recruitment

Hiring from among your friends is common practice–that′s what networking is all about. But are you hiring because your friend needs a job, or because the job needs your friend? Certain roles may allow you to be a bit lax with your friend′s qualifications, but project management is such a high-stress, demanding environment that there is no leeway for that kind of cronyism. Even if your friend already works for the same company–or even the same team–you still need to make sure they can do the job as good (or better) than anyone else.

Challenging Authority

Groups of friends have a different social dynamic outside of work than inside. Your best friend outside of work could be your biggest problem employee within the team, just because he′s not used to you ordering him around (especially if he thinks you′re wrong).

If you do decide to hire someone from outside work, make sure that you set expectations on the reporting structure, and how your relationship within work will affect the one outside work.

Friendship or Favoritism?

You know how it goes: easy/plum tasks, more allowances or perks, better treatment all around–favoritism is a real risk when you have a close relationship with someone on the team. And even if you don′t, it can always be seen that way by other jealous or unhappy team members.

I′m not saying you can′t be friends with anyone. You can and should. Just make sure you′re fair and even-handed with everybody, including your buddies. Especially if it means reading them the riot act (if they deserve it). And make sure they know you′re not going to give them special treatment.

Tricky Terminations

The trickiest part about being friends with a co-worker is saying goodbye–especially if you′re the one forcing them out. Whether it′s bad performance, retrenchment, or a plain bad fit, axing your own friend is probably going to burn a bridge. The best thing to do is to be as diplomatic as possible and that you still hope to be friends. They may understand why you made the decision and be mature about it, but there′s no guarantee of that until you actually get there.


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